Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stuck in the Middle with You

Do you ever feel stuck? Lately I've been stuck on several fronts. The worst part was my own writing. I was stuck and downright frozen in what direction to take. My characters were stuck. My plot was stuck. Even my genre was stuck. It was Mudlavia City here! And the more I thought about it, tried to get unstuck, the deeper I got into the mud. I was sinking fast. I was ready to quit! And I never give up. (That's my Rule #4 that I had for my P.E. students. I called them Miller's Six Rules to Live and Die By and they had to run or do pushups for not knowing them.)

So what do you do when you are stuck? When all you are writing gets into a rut and you have no idea 1. how to write out of it 2. which way to turn on the road 3. and you're out of chocolate ice cream!!!!! ? (or worse, you're on a diet?)

This is what I did--I went to a local writers conference. Yeah. Twenty minutes from my house. The conference was at my alma mater, Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana (Middle America--perfect.) I signed up Sunday night and showed up for the first intensive on Thursday. I didn't even know the speakers.(I hope to tell you some things about them.) I had never read my workshop instructor's fiction books.(I have three of them and look forward to them after I get my magazine reviews done.) It was an act of desperation, but I just knew I was supposed to go. So, for once I was totally obedient to God's nudging. (I have been known to be stubborn. An angel-wrestler from way back.)

And then the blessings flowed. Not all of the writers there were just like me. Some were way different than I was! But I cannot recall even one person whom I was sorry I met--in fact quite the contrary. Those people were wonderful. I had the best conversations. I loved the people I met. I got to reconnect with my mentor (and boy, did he ever help me,) Doc Hensley. I got something from each person I spoke to, whether raw beginner or seasoned pro. I was blessed by even some I didn't talk to at all, just listened to. And for once I opened myself up, sharing stuff I had long held inside. This, I believe, is what was most important for me--exposing that tender underbelly. Instead of being shredded to ribbons, I was embraced and urged to move forward.

One person who really blessed me was Dee. She asked me about my name--something I have long held in contempt because of many reasons--and suddenly I realized what my name cost my mother. She caused me to realize what a precious gift my name was.

I can't tell you how hard it is for someone who grew up like me to appear vulnerable and to trust people. It is the most difficult thing for me to do. And when I finally did trust people, many bad things happened to me, which caused me to retreat inside for years. I knew I could not move forward another step, though, if something didn't change soon. And this conference was the first step (or maybe I walked a whole mile) in this writer's journey. I came back refreshed. I had a plan on where I was going. I don't know where I'll end up, but I'm not stuck for now.

Now, if my internet ever gets back up to speed, I'll fill you in on some fabulous resources that I ran across at this conference.

Conferences are great places to go--not just to sell your writing, but to help you to move. If you get a chance, do look into the American Christian Fiction Writers conference to be held in Minneapolis (next to the Mall in America!) in September. If you write Christian fiction, you simply NEED to check this out. The only reason I went at the last minute to the Midwest Workshop was because it looks like I won't be able to go to the ACFW conference. The ACFW conference is one of the best fiction conferences in America. I was feeling so sorry for myself, but God blessed my socks off, just for being obedient. I almost passed up a truly wonderful bunch of people at the Midwest Writers Workshop.

If you can't get to a conference, there are so many online resources for you. Don't forget to stop by and tell me how you're doing in your journey.

So remember this:
Rule #4 of Miller's Six Rules to Live and Die By: Never Give Up.

I forgot my own rules. Sigh. (I guess I have 25 pushups to do now, but I'll be stronger when it's done.)


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Crystal -

I'm so glad you came home unstuck. It's rough when the creative juices stop flowing.

Writers' conferences hold a strange mixture of excitement and terror for me. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

I'm off to the Philly conference tomorrow. Thanks for encouraging me not to retreat into my shell.

Susan J. Reinhardt :)

Krista Phillips said...

I went to my first writer's conference (actually a retreat) in May, and Doc Hensley was there as well. Wow, what an encouragement! It was EXACTLY what I needed in this critical time in my career (uh, I am unpublished... the critical time may last a while hehe). It was the first time I let my precious baby (aka my book) out of the closet for anyone besides my mother to read. It was an awesome experience.

It is easy to get in a slump, I loved reading your encouragement! You are right, never give up!

Crystal Laine said...

My first writers' conference was in California (Mt. Hermon) so I flew across the country. It was amazing! It was when my oldest son was in HS because I came home after getting stuck in DIA in a blizzard and he had a car wreck in IN (he was ok.)Susan, give a report when you come back from Philly.

Krista, Doc is my mentor and I first took his class in 1999. He was the one who took time at this conference to help me along, too. You keep writing!